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Day 11: July 31st, Bison, Bears, and (no) Breakdowns

• CATEGORIES: Alaska Or Rust Trip, Features

<– Day 10: July 30th, Cruising the Alaska Highway | Day 12: Aug 1, Feliz Aniversario Hugo Vidal –>


Happy 84th Birthday today Hugo! (Aug 1)

Today we drove from Fort Nelson to Watson Lake, a distrance of 326 miles. Partly overcast as we left the city, we could see some dark clouds ahead that lingered over the pass we were approaching.


We drove from Fort Nelson to Watson Lake

We were only a few minutes outside of Fort Nelson when we spotted photographer Monicque Jacobs, who took pictures at Dalex Auto Service’s event on Sunday evening. That’s when Ann shouted, “Oh crap!”

“What’s the matter,” I asked.

“I was supposed to let Monicque know when were leaving the city.”

Monicque, this is our apology to you! Fortunately, she’s a professional and was ready for our exit.


A slight drizzle started, then turned to full rain as we climbed up the pass. The speed dropped and road tightened into a snaking mountian road, climbing until we were surrounded by mist.

2017-07-31-mystWhen we summited, we took a break. Those that had Pacific Northwest Four Wheel Drive Association hoodie-sweatshirts lined up for a photo in the rain.


PNW4WDA Hoodie wearers. It was a cold day on the summit.




Marcelo, Daro, and Luis


For the next hour or so the rain fell as we motored along lakes, down ravines, and through countless forests. Unlike Sunday, traffic was much lighter, so we took advantage of that by taking photos and video from the rear, the front, and while passing the convoy.


Beautiful spot along the Alaska Highway


Team Gruson: Luis, Dario, Andreas, Marcelo






Kevin, Tom, Emily, and Bill




Jim and Fernando

Our planned lunch stop for the day was world-famous Laird Hotsprings. Fortunately, the rain subsided by the time we arrived. While most of the crew explored the hot springs, Hugo, Fernando and I stayed with the vehicles to keep an eye on them. Some men from Alberta, possibly Amish, were looking at the jeeps with interest, so we chatted for a while.


Next, a young couple with Utah plates on their vehicle returned from the hot springs. As they backed their van and cargo trailer out of it’s spot, I opened a conversation with them. The couple, Kevin and Jen, explained that they were from Salt Lake City and were touring North and South America with their van and a trailer with a sauna in the back for the simple reason that they could. Hearing that, I asked the Vidals to join me and give them some advice for exploring the South America. When we finished, I had them sign Patterson and gave them a couple tshirts.

After a quick lunch, Ann and I got ahead of the crew to take pics of the convoy as it. Someone had mentioned there were Bison with calves on the road 12 miles north of the hot springs. By the time we got there, the only thing on the road were motorcyclers who’d stopped ON THE ROAD in the driving lane, next to the Bison. Meanwhile, Ann and I parked down from the herd, then walked on the opposite side of the road to take photos and give the herd space. Then, I climbed the hill along the road to get a pic of the bison as the jeeps rounded a corner. Just as I heard Bill’s voice on the radio, the cylers mounted and left. So we have the bison and road to ourselves. We even had great light.


As Murphy’s Law would have it, as soon as I spotted Bill in the distance, some tourist in a 40ft tall double decker (might be and exaggeration, but it was tall) #@%$@#$# trailer pulled up on the side of the road and came to a stop right in my line of sight. I had the staging, the light, and the shot. I was cussing and stamping my feet. How I didn’t cause the Bison to stampede I don’t know. Oh I was mad!! But, what could I do. I’m sure they never saw me up there.

There were several more herds of bison that we passed, all lazily hanging out in the grass on the sides of the road. From the hoof prints on the side of the road, it’s clear the bison used the road as much as humans.

The remainder of the drive to Watson Lake was uneventful, except for crossing into the Yukon AND seeing one bear, then another. I thought I had a photo of the bear somewhere, but my brain is mush and couldn’t find it. You’ll have to wait for the next post.


It was a great day of cruising with the group and enjoying each other’s company. All around, it’s a great bunch of folks.


Tomorrow, we and the Vidals will take off early to special luncheon at a resort south of Whitehorse. Then, everyone will congregate for Hugo’s 84th birthday party, which is being thrown by Stephen Reynolds, a local Whitehorse citizen. It should be quite the bash!

<– Day 10: July 30th, Cruising the Alaska Highway | Day 12: Aug 1, Feliz Aniversario Hugo Vidal –>


3 Comments on “Day 11: July 31st, Bison, Bears, and (no) Breakdowns

  1. Joe in Mesa

    It’s so great to be able to read along, since we can’t all ride along.
    As for Patterson, have you had a chance to diagnose… sounds like a charging issue (gen, volt reg, alt?), plus now needing a new battery. But it’d be great if you could get another day in.

  2. Barry West

    The herd looks great and the bison too! Great updates and sounds like good clean fun. Godspeed.

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